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Sheriffs weigh in and oppose casino gambling proposal

The Florida Sheriff's Association, a long-time opponent of expanded gambling, today officially announced its opposition to the proposal to bring destination resort casinos to Miami Dade and Broward.

Here's its statement:

      December 16, 2011, TALLAHASSEE – Today, The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) announces its opposition to the expansion of all forms of gambling in our state, and in particular opposes casino-style gambling due to the proven likelihood of increased criminal activity, higher demands on law enforcement resources and detrimental impacts on society.

      National studies have demonstrated that casino-style gambling creates additional crime.  The increase in crime is often attributed to the influx of tourists and the common practice of promoting free alcohol or drink specials to gamblers. In addition, the high wages and winnings at stake attract criminals committing burglary, larceny, and auto thefts – all of which generally are higher around casino areas. In some cases these crimes are being committed by compulsive gamblers who need to feed their addiction.  Criminals prey on tourists and other individuals who have won large amounts of cash.

   “The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) stands behind Attorney General Pam Bondi in her opposition to the expansion of gambling in our state,” said FSA President and Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson. “Study after study has confirmed the link between casino gambling and increased crime. While casinos may spur short-term economic gain, the spin-off societal costs from increased criminal victimization and gambling addiction are just too high a price to pay. Expanding casino gambling is a bad deal for Florida, and we applaud our Attorney General for taking a strong stand against any further proliferation of gambling in Florida.”

    Not only do national studies confirm that gambling brings in additional crime, but the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) reports that 35 percent of callers to their toll-free anonymous HelpLine 1-888-ADMIT-IT said they committed an illegal act to support their habit. Moreover, in casinos where large sums of cash are exchanged frequently, organized crime often takes root to use casinos to engage in money laundering, loan sharking, robberies and prostitution.

    These situations demand the increased presence of law enforcement.  While there are state-level law enforcement agencies and departments, the majority of responses to criminal activity will fall to local law enforcement agencies.  Sheriffs, who are local Constitutional Officers funded through county budgets, are not guaranteed to receive any additional resources to cover the necessary increase in service.  The ratio of law enforcement officers to constituents will decrease as more tourists visit the area to participate in casino gambling.  Sheriffs’ deputies will be pulled from routine community patrol to respond to criminal activity brought in by any new casino-style gaming establishment. 

     For some, gambling is merely a form of entertainment, but for others it is a true addiction. Gambling addicts struggle to provide for themselves and their families and often will turn to crime to support their habit. Society will be left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives.

    We applaud Attorney General Pam Bondi, as well as Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam for taking a stand against casino style gaming. FSA looks forward to defeating this initiative in order to maintain the quality of life our fellow Floridians deserve.